Universiteit Leiden

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Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology

Everyone most obey the law. If you don’t, you will face the police and the courts. The application of national, European and international criminal law would seem to be a matter of following the letter of the law. But the reality is more nuanced. Criminal law scholars and criminologists from very different backgrounds and with very different expertise work at the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology.

Entire justice system

Many legal experts who work for the Institute also work in the justice system, as a substitute judge, for instance. They therefore know what is going on in the field.

They use this knowledge and experience in their research, which focuses on the study of the entire justice system: from criminalisation to establishing the truth to punishment. Cooperation between legal experts and social scientists is essential to this research.

What is truth?

Researchers at the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology study reliability and lawfulness in this hunt for the truth. Establishing the truth is the cornerstone of criminal law. But what is the truth? The focus of the research lies on the interaction between the judge, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service and experts, from the Netherlands Forensic Institute, for instance.

Once the truth has been established, a punishment can be decided upon. The research focuses in part on the question of why certain behaviour constitutes an offence at all. This is subject to change – through new European legislation or international treaties, for instance. This is how more importance has come to be ascribed to victims’ rights.


The last step in the justice system, and one of the four research areas of the Institute, is punishment. The belief in prison sentences has had its ups and downs. Perpetrators are increasingly put under surveillance, enabling them to rejoin society. Within the Prison Project, researchers are looking at the effects of imprisonment on the further lives of prisoners and their families.

Research and teaching are closely integrated at the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology. Students contribute to the research, in the Prison Project, for instance.

Developments in society

Recent developments – such as emerging technologies or societal change – inspire new research at the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology. Research is being conducted into topical themes such as crimmigration, a blend of crime and migration, for instance, or decisions made by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee in border regions.

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